PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As violence in South Pittsburgh neighborhoods and surrounding communities continues to escalate, the search for solutions has intensified.
The South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace held an urgent “Stop the Violence Call to Action” rally Tuesday night at the Brashear CARES Center in the Mount Oliver neighborhood.
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“South Pittsburgh is Allegheny County’s hotspot with so many homicides and nonfatal shootings in a week. Many people are grieving, many communities are affected, and it just has to stop. That is why we are gathered tonight in a call to action,” said Rev. Eileen Smith, executive director of the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace.
Smith said there have been five shootings in South Pittsburgh in the last week alone, three of which were fatal.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said there have been 19 homicides in the city so far in 2022, up from 13 homicides at this time last year. He said seven of the homicides that year happened in Zone 3, which covers part of South Pittsburgh. Schubert said last year there were two this time.
Pittsburgh residents, community leaders, advocates for preventing violence, elected officials and the Pittsburgh Police Department attended this latest rally because they don’t want anyone else to die from violence.
“We have victims from 15 to 58 and everything in between. A child shouldn’t have to worry about going to school, going to the store, or riding a bike. A person, an adult, shouldn’t have to worry about that. Seniors don’t have to worry about that. So we owe it to all victims to do everything we can to prevent this from happening,” Chief Schubert said.
Schubert said that something had to be done preventively to keep people from committing violent crimes.
“We have a lot to do. We’re talking a lot tonight, which is good, but we have to act and for that we have to work together,” said Chief Schubert.
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Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey thanked organizations in the room for their fight to save lives.
“That’s not even one percent of what we have out there and that’s why I think we’re going to win. I believe at the end of the day we have enough good things to ensure our children grow up and our community is safe,” Mayor Gainey said.
The South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace has peacemakers working tirelessly on the streets. The South Pittsburgh Peacemakers consist of four intervention specialists and a chaplain. They are trained violent disruptors and outreach workers who prevent shootings by identifying and mediating potentially deadly conflicts.
Peacemakers are currently mourning the loss of 23-year-old Micah Stoner, a man who was shot dead in Mount Washington last week. Peacemaker Larry Harris said Stoner is trying to make a difference and has worked with them through a mentoring program.
“We have to understand that this is an epidemic. This is far more than just a conversation. It takes everyone in the room,” Harris said.
Rev. Smith told the audience that this violence is far beyond what her organization with four peacemakers and one minister can do.
“We have to come up with some kind of plan, and we encourage everyone to do it. Let’s all work together and get this done,” said Rev. Smith.
The South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace is holding a citywide prayer vigil Friday to stop the violence. It begins at 6pm at Potters House Ministries on Ormsby Avenue in the Mount Oliver neighborhood.
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The group calls on the congregation to pray for the city and peace in neighborhoods, youth and schools, families and victims of gun violence, legislators and elected officials, police and street workers.
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